Experience Ecuador's natural wonders beyond the lively capital city Quito on this eight-day discovery tour. Before heading into the wilderness, you'll base yourself mostly in Quito, exploring its museums, architecture, and cuisine. Take a day trip to the sapphire waters of Cuicocha Lagoon, shop for handicrafts in Otavalo Market, and hike amid the cloud forests of Mindo. Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, sleep in a traditional hacienda, and have fun in Baños—Ecuador's adventure capital.


  • Learn how to prepare Ecuadorian cuisine in a Quito cooking class
  • Explore the beautiful cloud forest of Mindo in the Andean foothills
  • Sleep in a traditional hacienda in Cotopaxi National Park
  • Zipline or swing high over the beautiful scenery of Baños
  • Drive along the awe-inspiring Avenue of Waterfalls

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore Quito
Day 2 Take a Cooking Class, Discover Mitad del Mundo  Quito
Day 3 Shop Otavalo Market, Hike Around Cuicocha Lagoon  Quito
Day 4 Day Trip to the Mindo Cloud Forest, Tour Chocolate Factory Quito
Day 5 Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Explore Cotopaxi
Day 6 Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon Hike (Optional Mule Excursion) Baños
Day 7 Explore the Avenue of Waterfalls & Baños, Return to Quito Quito
Day 8 Depart Quito  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi volcano

Welcome to Ecuador! Standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), the capital of Quito welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of marketplaces, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene. Spend your first day in the country exploring the capital and sampling Ecuadorian cuisine, then get some rest in preparation for the week's adventures.

Day 2: Take a Cooking Class, Discover Mitad del Mundo 

Equatorial Monument Mitad del Mundo
The Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument

Today, your guide will take you on a walking tour through the UNESCO-listed historic center of Quito to discover the colonial churches of La Basílica del Noto and La Compañia de Jesús, and orientate yourself around the Plaza de la Independencia (also known as Plaza Grande), the city's main square. End with a stroll down La Ronda, a romantic cobbled pedestrian street that was once used as a trail by the Inca.

Next, you'll participate in a cooking class. With a local chef, you'll shop for produce in a marketplace and learn how to prepare a few traditional Ecuadorian dishes. Enjoy this freshly made lunch, followed by coffee. Afterward, you'll visit the equatorial monument Mitad del Mundo, where French scientists determined the position of the equator's line many years ago. Stop for dinner in a traditional restaurant, then stay overnight at your hotel in Quito.

Day 3: Shop Otavalo Market, Hike Around Cuicocha Lagoon 

Cuicocha Lagoon
Spot the twin islands of Cuicocha Lagoon on this afternoon's hike

Today, visit Otavalo Market, one of South America's most important and traditional markets. The region's Indigenous people gather here to buy and trade everything from handicrafts to fresh vegetables and fruits. Take a stroll through the streets near the market and try some local street food, such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn).

In the afternoon, hike around the crater lagoon of Cuicocha. On the trail, your guide will point out the high-altitude flora and fauna and explain the history of the once-active volcano. In the evening you'll return to Quito.

Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Day Trip to the Mindo Cloud Forest, Tour Chocolate Factory

A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest
Ride a zipline over the canopy of the Mindo cloud forest

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to the lush cloud forest of Mindo. This forest's location on the western slopes of the Andean highlands means mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall, which help nourish its incredible biodiversity. Once you arrive, you'll be able to see hundreds of different bird species, visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or ride a zipline through the forest.

Later, tour the nearby chocolate factory and learn how locally grown cacao beans are processed to create delicious candy. In the late afternoon, you'll head back to Quito.

Day 5: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Explore

Limpiopungo lake with Cotopaxi volcano in the background
Limpiopungo Lake and Cotopaxi volcano

Leave Quito this morning and head south to Cotopaxi National Park. Visit Lake Limpiopungo, located in the highlands, offering a spectacular view of the Cotopaxi volcano's gigantic cone. Lake Limpiopungo is home to various birds and wild horses, too. Take a short walk around the lake to admire Andean plants and wildlife.

You'll reach a traditional hacienda just in time for lunch. Afterward, go for a scenic horseback excursion in the foothills of the Rumiñahui volcano, explore the surroundings on a mountain bike, or relax at the hacienda, where you'll spend the night. 

Day 6: Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon Hike (Optional Mule Excursion)

A trail alongside Quilotoa Lagoon

Today you'll visit the picturesque volcano lagoon of Quilotoa. Walk along the crater's rim to enjoy the splendid view, or hike down a path to the crater lake. You'll also have the option to rent a mule for the excursion, which can make the return ascent from the water's edge far less taxing. In the afternoon, you'll continue to Baños, known as Ecuador's "adventure capital" for its many outdoor activities and dramatic jungles, waterfalls, and canyons. Choose one of several excellent restaurants near your hotel to enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian-style meal and get a good night's sleep in preparation for tomorrow's excursions.

Day 7: Explore the Avenue of Waterfalls & Baños, Return to Quito

Trek to the base of the Pailón del Diablo, or "Devil's Cauldron" in the Andes

You'll drive along the so-called Avenue of Waterfalls this morning with your guide. Traveling south from Baños, follow the Río Pastaza as it winds through the valley of the same name. Passing a number of waterfalls, you'll reach the village of Río Verde, where you'll stop to visit the well-known waterfall known as Pailón del Diablo ("Devil's Cauldron"). Descend a dizzying series of steps to the thundering base of the cascade, where you can admire the 265-foot (80 m) wonder up close.

Later on, you could try some ziplining or canyoning, relax in the hot springs, swing high above the clouds at the Casa del Árbol—a hugely popular activity with kids—and enjoy a cup of coffee at Café del Cielo as you take in incredible views of Baños and the surrounding mountains. You'll return to Quito in the afternoon for one last overnight before the trip ends.

Day 8: Depart Quito

Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito
Twilight over the Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito

Your Ecuadorian adventure comes to an end today. Depending on your schedule, you might have some free time for a stroll around Quito and a leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Discover Ecuador's Cultural Highlights & Natural Wonders: Quito, Cotopaxi & Baños - 8 Days
Map of Discover Ecuador's Cultural Highlights & Natural Wonders: Quito, Cotopaxi & Baños - 8 Days